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From neverland to never ever – disputing ‘the King of Pop’s’ estate

07 November 2022

Michael Jackson, known by many as the ‘King of Pop,’ passed away on 25 June 2009. When preparing his will, he had plenty to consider, including his many assets and debts, as well as his children, parents, ex-wife and others who would have expected, or at least hoped, to inherit from his fortune.

Although Jackson prepared a will before his death, several inheritance claims were made against his estate, including those by his father, brothers and sisters, who he intentionally left out of his will.

Over the course of his life, Jackson prepared three wills, and under the terms of his first, made in 1995, he specified that his assets were to be placed in the ‘Michael Jackson Family Trust’. The trust was to give 20% of his estate to charity and the remaining amount was left to his mother, Katherine, and his children. Upon his mother’s death, the trust fund would be used solely for the benefit of Jackson’s children. His subsequent three wills, prepared in December 1997, March 2002 and July 2002 did no more than clarify the names of his children; the distribution of his estate was otherwise identical.

Following his death, Jackson’s brothers and sisters attempted to overturn his final will by claiming that it was “fake, flawed and fraudulent,” however, they were unsuccessful due to missing the deadline to challenge its validity.

Had they not been ‘timed out’ of challenging the will, what could Jackson’s siblings have hoped to achieve? Under the law in England and Wales, the answer would be very little. This is because by having Jackson’s 2002 will declared invalid, the terms of March 2002 would have applied. This would have meant that his estate would still have been divided between charity, his mother and three children, as intended.

In fact, for there to be any changes to how the estate would be distributed, Jackson’s siblings would have had to challenge all of their brother’s previous wills and have all four found to be invalid. Under English and Welsh law, in these circumstances the rules of intestacy would then have applied, meaning that Jackson’s mother and the charities would not receive anything from the estate, and his children would have shared the entire fortune between them.

This would have meant that, in England and Wales, there would simply have been no point in Jackson’s siblings challenging the validity of his wills in the first place, as there would never be a way for them to benefit.

Although not a recent case, the story of disputing Michael Jackson’s estate demonstrates the importance of seeking legal advice if you are considering challenging the validity of a will, to ensure that there would be a benefit in doing so.

Please get in touch with our inheritance and trusts disputes team should you need any advice on such a matter; we’d be happy to help.

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Our Legal 500 and Chambers-rated litigation & dispute resolution team help private and commercial clients to resolve a wide range of disputes, including those related to inheritance.

Disclaimer: All legal information is correct at the time of publication but please be aware that laws may change over time. This article contains general legal information but should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please seek professional legal advice about your specific situation - contact us; we’d be delighted to help.
Jessica Whooley LLB (Hons)
Associate, solicitor
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Jessica Whooley
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